Sunday, November 7, 2010

The past is another country

Went to see the movie Made in Dagenham this afternoon, and greatly enjoyed it: about the 187 women machinists who went on strike at the Ford factory there in 1968 for a higher rate of pay and ended up setting in train the legislation that led to equal pay for all women, not just in the UK but as a consequence in other countries around the world. Inspiring stuff.

It was also fascinating to see how different England looked in those days. I went there nine years later and can remember some of the characteristics that look so dated and foreign now - the crabbed look of women in headscarves weighed down with vinyl shopping bags; hideous apartment blocks of cramped flats; men in flat caps with visible vests under their white shirts - but the general feel of impoverishedness was striking.

You don't miss what you've never had of course, and I imagine people then were as happy with their black and white TVs and hissy transistors as we are with our smart phones and laptops, not knowing what much better technology awaits us in the future. But it looked so uncomfortable, and unattractive. When did it get better? The seventies, with the big hair and men's short shorts? The eighties, with the greed and the conspicuous consumption? The nineties, with reality TV and crippling guilt about the environment? Now?

Today we also booked our tickets for the Great Family Trip to the UK next year to show the girls where they were born: their first return there since they left as little children. I wonder how they'll see it? The countryside will be as undeniably beautiful as ever - but will the people look cool or quaint?

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